Nick Kafker
Mr. Abramson
History 7C
May 18 , 2008
The Rosenberg Trial
Communist Paranoia was the deciding factor in the Rosenberg Case and led to the death of the Rosenbergs. During the mid 1940s the Rosenberg family and their cohorts stole information on the atomic bomb and gave it to the Soviets. At the time of the Rosenberg case the people of the United States were living in great fear of communism. It was the time of the Second Red Scare. The Red Scare caused a wave of Communist hysteria that forced the government to imprison or execute anybody suspected of working with the Communists.
During the 1940s and 1950s the Cold War between the Soviet Union and The United States was taking place. This was a period of ideological and military conflict between the Soviet Union and the Untied States. At this time Senator Joseph McCarthy was accusing the government of employing Communists, and the United States was overrun with paranoia. To make matters worse the US and the Soviets were in a race to develop nuclear weapons. By 1945 the United States had nuclear weapons and the Soviets did not. The Soviets were afraid of being bombed by the United States. Because of the fear for their Communist ideals young Communists in the United States worked hard to get the information on the atomic bomb to the Soviets.
A British Physicist named Klaus Fuchs, who was working on the Manhattan Project, developing the atomic bomb, was arrested for giving information on the atomic bomb to a Soviet agent he knew only as “Raymond.” This was the first tip off to the United States that there was a leak in security. Raymond was later Identified as Harry Gold, a middle aged chemist. When questioned he admitted that he transmitted information on the atomic bomb to a soldier working at Los Alamos. This soldier was identified as David Greenglass. David Greenglass gave a voluntary confession and told the FBI about the Soviet spy ring he was involved in. All of these events led to the investigation of the Rosenbergs.
In 1943 Julius Rosenberg began discussing espionage with his brother-in-law David Greenglass. They both decided that their families should drop out of the Communist Party so they would have less of a chance of being suspected. Julius claimed that he wanted to spend more time with his wife Ethel and their newborn son, and Mr. Greenglass claimed he wanted to spend more time with his pregnant wife. Shortly thereafter in 1944 David Greenglass was assigned to work as a soldier-machinist at Los Alamos. At Los Alamos the Americans were developing a major piece of the atomic bomb. Mr. Greenglass seized this opportunity to spy for the Soviets. He took notes on the implosion lens of the atomic bomb, and gave the notes to Harry Gold or Julius Rosenberg.
In 1949 Julius Rosenberg learned through the KGB (Soviet intelligence) that the Americans were on to them. Mr. Rosenberg warned Mr. Greenglass to get out before he get caught. Mr. Greenglass refused and kept spying and relaying the information. At 8 am on the sixteenth of June 1950 the FBI showed up at the apartment of the Rosenbergs and took Julius Rosenberg in for questioning. Greenglass was questioned and he gave a full confession and he told the FBI about the spy ring.
On the 17th of July, 1950, Julius Rosenberg was arrested at his apartment by the FBI. A little less than a month later Ethel Rosenberg was arrested in a subway station on the way home from testifying. David Greenglass claimed that she was the secretary of the spy ring. She typed up the notes he took on the components of the bomb. Her job was not very important. After these two events Rosenberg hired Emanuel Bloch to defend them.
On March 6,1951 the case of the United States v. Julius Rosenberg, Ethel Rosenberg, and Morton Sorbel (a member of the spy ring) began. All were charged with conspiracy to commit espionage. They were prosecuted by Irving Saypol and his assistant Roy Cohn. The trial was held in the court room of Judge Irving Kaufman, who seemed to get swept up in the hysteria too.
The Rosenbergs pleaded innocent but exercised thier Fifth Amendment right not to testify when asked about their involvement in the Communist party. Julius Rosenberg denied any involvement in the spy ring and he denied that he had any connections with the Soviet Union. On the 29 of March 1951 the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death and Morton Sorbell got 30 years in prison. After the sentencing the Rosenbergs stayed in prison for 2 years. They made many appeals to the Supreme Court, and one of them came within one vote of being accepted.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in the electric chair at Sing-Sing prison in
New York City. They were the first civilians ever to be executed for spying. The Rosenbergs left behind two sons who wrote a book We Are Your Sons that claims that their parents were innocent.
The Red Scare had a huge effect on the Rosenberg Case. If the Cold War had not been going on and Communist paranoia was not so predominate in the United States the Rosenbergs would not have been executed. The Government officials were so afraid of being suspected of being Communist or Communist sympathizers that the only way they could show that they were anti Communist was to kill or imprison any Communist person they found. Julius Rosenbergs committed a serious crime and deserved to be punished but he did not deserve to be executed. Ethel Rosenberg did almost nothing and definitely did not need to be executed.

Works Cited
“Irving Kaufman: Rosenberg Trial statement upon sentencing (1951).” World History: The Modern Era. 2008. ABC-CLIO. 14 Apr. 2008 <>.
LINDER, DOUG. “TRIAL OF THE ROSENBERGS: AN ACCOUNT.” Famous Trials. 2001. University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). 14 Apr. 2008 <>.
“Nuclear Fission.” World History: The Modern Era. 2008. ABC-CLIO. 27 Apr. 2008 <>.
“The Rosenbergs.” World History: The Modern Era. 2008. ABC-CLIO. 14 Apr. 2008 <>.